Is Covid-19 a Work Accident?

During the Covid-19 epidemic, some workplaces carrying essential services have remained open and this has posed the risk of spreading the virus among the workers. Employers have had to ensure business continuity while preventing spread of the virus and keeping everyone safe. Because people infected with Covid-19 don’t show symptoms immediately after contracting the virus, workers have continued going to work and spreading to others. For this reason, it is difficult to trace whether the worker contracted the virus at work or elsewhere. 

There was a lot of debate around whether Covid-19 will be considered as a work accident in the Turkish Labor Law. The SSI recently published a regulation classifying Covid-19 as a disease rather than a work accident. Being infected with Covid-19 will be considered as “an illness other than a work accident and an occupational disease, as included in Article 15 of the Social Insurance and General Health Insurance Law No. 5510”.

This declaration opened up other debates on cases related to previous contagious diseases such as H1N1. There was one particular case where a truck driver had lost his life due to H1N1 during a work trip from Turkey to Ukraine. During the trial, the disease was not considered as a work accident; however, when appealed to the Supreme Court, it was concluded as a work accident. 

Is There Any Exception to this Regulation?

Undoubtedly, the biggest burden is on the health professionals, some of whom have lost their lives due to the virus, in Turkey and around the world. For healthcare providers who are infected with the Covid-19, the situation is no different from other professions. Covid-19 is considered as an illness rather than a work accident or an occupational disease even for health professionals. Therefore, an accident or occupational disease notification will not be sent to SSI for a healthcare provider who tested positive for Covid-19. 

This decision of the SSI will have legal consequences in the future and will be the subject of many lawsuits filed by the employees against the Institution, seeking a verdict in the Supreme Court. 

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